Honolulu Hale hosted a rare collection of federal, state and city officials Wednesday to talk about the rail project, but little new was revealed.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle briefed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff on the project’s progress behind closed doors. The trio — as well as all four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation — emerged after about an hour together to announce to a slew of media that their support is unwavering. Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the leaders of the Honolulu City Council’s Transportation Committee were among others in the room.
The meeting came just days after a key development — the city’s announcement that it handed out nearly a billion dollars in new rail contracts to two companies. LaHood said the city has done everything it’s been asked and only needs to “stay the course” to satisfy the feds.
“There is a clear path here how to fund this project,” LaHood said after the meeting. “Everybody here knows what that is, and I have no doubt they’ll follow that path and we’ll be making some very good announcements about this project after we have a chance to review all the information that we’ve requested.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other Hawaii officials address the media after meeting to talk about rail.
The meeting marked the first time a sitting Transportation Secretary ventured to Hawaii on official business, according to LaHood. It may have been a momentous occasion that Carlisle described as a “shot in the arm” for the city, but it apparently covered no new ground, at least according to the city’s rail chief.
Toru Hamayasu, general manager of the Honolulu Rapid Transit Project, told Civil Beat after the meeting with the feds that it included “nothing new but it’s a reinforcement of their support.” Hamayasu said the meeting did not feature any discussion of a yet-to-be-filed city request to enter into final design or the updated financial analysis that will be produced to support that request.
“There was nothing new for the FTA rep (Rogoff) in today’s meeting,” Hamayasu said, adding that the details will be hashed out down the line by city and federal staffers. Asked if that meant the meeting was held only for the optics of city, state and federal leaders standing together in photographs, Hamayasu said it was more than that.
“The secretary genuinely wanted to know some things,” he said.
Pressed for details about the advice he gave the city and about questions the FTA wants addressed, LaHood said he didn’t want to “get into the weeds” on specifics.
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